Common Core math makes no sense! Common Core is stupid! Or, maybe not.

Give yourself a random, fairly complex subtraction problem in your head… say, 430 – 282 = ? Pay attention to how you do it. No cheating, no using scratch paper. You have to do it in your head. Got your answer? OK, read on… we’ll talk about the answer in a minute.

This image has been making its rounds on Facebook and the interwebs. It’s reportedly an assignment given to a second or third grader teaching some crazy, newfangled, nonsensical math that is dictated by the Common Core. Isn’t the Common Core horrible? This makes no sense! Not even the kid’s engineer parent can understand it!!


Wow, that parent really let the educational system have it! I mean, if he or she can’t understand the way they’re teaching basic math on a grade 2 or 3 level even though s/he’s an engineer and can do differential equations, it must be worthless and just make no sense, right? Why are they screwing up our kids’ brains?! OH THE EVIL COMMON CORE HAS DONE THIS TO US!

Or…. maybe not.

See, there are very solid educational foundations to the approach pictured. We were never taught this way in school, because our curriculum focused entirely on ‘the way we’ve always done it’ and solely on ‘math we can build on to teach things like differential equations later’. So this is new, and it has a purpose. This fosters the ability to do this sort of math problem in our heads. That’s what us educator types like to call “critical thinking” – it’s teaching a kid to be able to do the math entirely in her head. Isn’t that kind of awesome? That way she doesn’t have to take out a piece of paper and write out the problem as the engineer did in this photo. Some of us have taught that to ourselves on our own, not really realizing that we did it. But often it didn’t click until way later – high school or college, and until then we fumble with those sorts of numbers unless we can write the problem down. Sometimes the skill to compute in our brains doesn’t click at all, and you’ve seen that, any time you confuse a cashier with a weird amount. This sort of math lesson teaches more hands-on and everyday skills. All of this so that hopefully in 10-15 years, when kids exposed to this ‘new math’ are old enough to hold jobs, when you hand a cashier $21.26 to pay a $16.16 total, you don’t get that blank deer in headlights stare. This sort of math, and various other strategies our kids will learn, are much more appropriate than sticking ONLY to the approach we were taught as kids… which is still taught as a foundation. That good-ol’-way of doing it hasn’t been abandoned, for goodness sake. But for a kid who might not go to college, let alone need to do differential equations, this is a much more useful tool to take into the workforce.

And as for blaming Common Core…

Common Core does not dictate any specific curriculum or approach. For grade 3, for example, Common Core standards simply say: “Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.”  This builds on “Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method. Understand that in adding or subtracting three-digit numbers, one adds or subtracts hundreds and hundreds, tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose or decompose tens or hundreds.” from the grade 2 learning standards. Common Core, as you may be aware – or maybe not – is ONLY a broad list of learning standards that students are expected to meet by the end of each grade level. It does not dictate curriculum, it does not dictate specific content. It did not make this teacher use this specific worksheet.

Too bad this engineer doesn’t have a degree in education or he might appreciate all that.

(That math problem I gave… did you do it? When you do it in your head you’re not borrowing, are you? And I’ll bet you don’t start at the ones place and work your way up. You were never taught to do it like that in school, I’ll bet. You taught that to yourself, or perhaps a crafty parent taught you. There’s no logical reason why kids can’t be taught those strategies in school. They can look weird on paper but they make a lot of sense in your head.)


If a baby is old enough to ask for it, he’s too old to be breastfeeding!!

“Mom, can I play Wii?”

“Nope, you’re old enough to ask for it, so you’re too old to play Wii.”


“Mom, can I have an apple?”

“Nope, you’re old enough to ask for it, so you’re too old to have an apple.”


Kind of illogical, don’t you think? I mean, if nothing else, the ability to ask for something doesn’t preclude someone’s need for it. So why do people bring out similar logic in this situation:

“Mama, nurse!”

“No, dear. You’ve gotten old enough to ask for it so you’re obviously too old to be breastfeeding.”


I mean, come on. The AAP recommends nursing for at least a year, and as long as mutually desired by mom and child. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years of breastfeeding. All of my kids have started with words by 9-10 months old, and they all could sign “milk” by six months old.

Your logic simply does not apply. #sorrynotsorry

How to be in a group photo

No matter where I’m taking pictures – a wedding, party, or even portraits, I end up taking a lot of group photos. At the same time, most people who are in a group photo haven’t been in nearly as many group photos. I’m sure they’ve seen a lot of group photos, but maybe they just haven’t noticed these things. Well, let me give you a few tips so you can be at your best!

1) Don’t lean. Don’t hunch. Don’t tilt your head toward the group. I’m sure I’ve even been guilty of this in my life. This is a huge symptom of the people on the ends of a group photo. Don’t worry — the photographer won’t cut you off, and you don’t look weird being on the end. Own the space, and stand tall. Now, you want to be in close, no doubt, but get in close with your whole body, not just from the neck up.


Look at that poor girl in the tan jacket, hapless victim of the lean-in. She looks like her spine has gone rubbery. (Photo © ClintJCL on Flickr)

2) If you can’t see the camera lens, the camera can’t see you. As photographers we totally try to scope out a group and get everyone positioned as well as we can, but in a group of more than a half-dozen folks, even the most patient adults gets restless. Forget it if there’s even one kid involved! We need to get that picture while everyone’s in frame. So from wherever you are, look at the camera lens. Can you see it clearly, without getting on your tiptoes to look over someone’s head? Then you’ll be in the picture. If you can only see it with one eye, well, guess what. Half your face is getting cut off. Shift yourself until you have a better view.


Arms hanging, both feet pointing at the camera. Most of these folks are not posed very well. But check out the lady in lavender – good body position, you can’t see both her arms, and that man on the end is NAILING IT. So cool, so casual. Good position, hands look a little busy, not leaning in, one foot pointing to the side. Well, done, sir! (Photo © Dilip Muralidaran (dilipm) on Flickr)

3) Posture, posture, posture! Don’t stand with both feet pointed at the camera. This goes for ANY picture, really, but is just as applicable in a group photo. Point one foot toward the camera, and one foot 90-degree to the side. This gives your body a good angle and automatically improves your posture. Shoulders square to the camera is probably the most unflattering angle (aside, maybe, from bending over and getting caught from behind). You’re at your widest, and you look like a soldier, a mugshot, or just generally stiff. Make sure you have one shoulder closer to the camera than the other. Pull those shoulders back so you’re not hunching, and stand up tall!

4) Arms! Oh what should you do with your arms?! Well, definitely don’t cross them, that just looks adversarial.  Both just hanging down by your side can have a stiff, zombie sort of look, especially if you’ve also neglected the bit about angling your shoulders. Women often clasp them in front, but that can look a little mousy (but still way better than hanging limply). A thumb in the waistband or a hand in a pocket looks casual, hands behind the back are OK if your posture is otherwise good, one hand on hip can work depending on the picture (and especially if you’re on an end), and if it’s a more intimate crowd, and hand on the shoulder in front of you or arms around the waists of the people next to you certainly works. Standing behind someone sitting in a chair, put a hand or two on the back of the chair (without letting your shoulders hunch).


This group is simply nailing it! All those faces and we can still see all of them. Nobody looks stiff, hands are mostly busy (especially those making the rabbit ears, we see you, Uncle Dave!) No leaning, good posture… bravo! (Picture © ClintJCL on Flickr)

A moment in the fog

My two year-old daughter is in the backseat and we’re driving to the pediatrician.  She’s fine, but she just had a birthday so it’s time for a well visit. The morning is foggy; not a magical, mystical fog that dances with random beams of penetrating sunlight, but a depressing, heavy, bland sort of fog that makes everything seem the same color and makes it onerous to even sing along to the radio. We have to drive over this little mountain to get to the doctor’s office, and the road winds as it rises. As we get higher, the fog gets thicker and we keep passing cars that don’t have their headlights on.  Each one makes me just a little more crazy.  How could anyone forget to turn on their headlights in a fog like this?  Do they WANT to die?! The fog’s dreariness has made me grumpy and I complain in a sing-songy voice to my daughter. “Oh, these silly people who don’t have their headlights on!” The cars that most vex me are the gray ones. “Hi there, you are the same color as the fog! Turn on your lights!” We crest the mountain and descent the other side, and as the fog loses some of its density so does my mood.  

We get to the doctor’s in one piece and the visit lacks any real surprises; my daughter is still tall, and she still cries at any poke and prod by a nurse or the doctor.  A cute addition, however, is how she hides her face in her stuffed tiger when the pediatrician enters the room and that she refuses to even look at him. 

Going home, the fog is no less heavy, and the mountain road is no less undulating.  I continue giving the stink-eye to every car without its headlights on.  Then right about when we reach the highest point on the road, I realize that I, noble crusader for proper headlight use, have failed to turn on my own.  I correct the situation and promptly die of embarrassment.

Motherhood (n)

A perpetual state of worry, frustration, and joy.  Nurturing and nourishment.  Living for someone outside yourself.  The complete lack of any personal space.  Not generally caring about the complete lack of personal space, but occasionally feeling just touched out.  The unhesitating willingness to boldly deal with any myriad and combination of bodily fluids.  Snuggles.  The miraculous power to heal any pain with a kiss.  Mysterious smells.  Laundry.  The feeling that your heart might just burst right out of your chest.  An unending cycle of meals, school bus stops, extracurricular activities, and “just one more” bedtime stories.  Finding the balance between selflessness and selfishness.  Wondering how you ever thought you were happy before.

Bear with me

I know I haven’t been around much.  BUT!  I’m being forced to write “creative nonfiction” for a class titled, appropriately “Creative Nonfiction” that will fulfilled a general education requirement as I continue to pursue my graduate degree in education at a snail’s pace.  So if I write anything interesting I shall post it.  🙂

That time with the kid and the puke


Growing up, our babysitter was Holly. She lived next door and was, perhaps, the coolest person in the history of ever. She would sunbathe outside and listen to KISS 98.5 FM, which was way more cool than Magic 102, don’t you know. She would give me her hand-me-down clothes and how awesome is it to get hand-me-downs from the coolest person in all of eternity!? I loved being babysat by Holly. I don’t remember much of what we did, or how often it happened, but I remember she was fun and kind and didn’t treat me like I was an annoying little shit. (Once Holly got too old to babysit, Denise from down the street took over. She was fine, but she was no Holly.)

Once I got to be 12 or 13, man, did I want a babysitting gig. I would rock the socks off that shit, because I had Holly to emulate. Plus I was a 7-years-older sister to my younger brother so I had practice with little kids. I hooked up with my first babysitting opportunities through a family whose son, Andy, was on my brother’s t-ball team. Two little boys, 7 and 5. They were ADORABLE. I babysat for them once or twice, their parents paid well (back then, babysitters didn’t demand a rate like they do now — or if they did, I was certainly too timid to do so! I took whatever people wanted to pay me and I was grateful for it, mostly. One family was really quite obscenely stingy and I didn’t sit for them again. I was conveniently unavailable – it’s amazing how timidity can translate into passive-aggressiveness, even as a 13 year-old.)

Andy and his little brother were a bit mischevious but nothing I couldn’t handle. I daresay we had fun.

Then, one time, I came over to babysit for an afternoon. As they were leaving, Andy’s mom mentioned that Andy said he was feeling a little “icky” earlier in the day and hopefully it would be nothing, and they would be back in about three hours.

About a half-hour into the afternoon, Andy says his tummy hurts. I get him a bowl, just in case. Ten minutes later, BAM, FIREWORKS. Ungodly amounts of vomit erupt from the nether regions of this child’s digestive system.

I am certain I inherited from my mother an innate ability to keep my shit together on the surface in the most disgusting of circumstances. I had a nasty bout of food poisoning when I was 13, the results of which, well, I’m just shocked my mom didn’t just say “fuck it” and tear out the whole bathroom. Is it a woman thing? I certainly can’t say for sure in a statistically significant way, but the fact of the matter is I’ve only witnessed men actually throw up when faced with disgusting crap (figuratively and literally). I have a tendency toward hysterics when faced with stressful situations but when shit gets gross, I get downright stoic. Puke and crap are literally my husband’s Kryptonite. They will crack his impenetrable exterior faster than a cold dish in a hot oven.

Regardless of how I came to have the ability, I kept on my big-girl pants and soothed this little person through his puking into the bowl. (Doesn’t this kid chew his food? I’d wondered throughout.) Once he’d finally wrapped up the pyrotechnics, he volunteered to take the bowl and dump it in the bathroom, because I think he felt bad for throwing up and wanted to help, sweet boy. I followed just behind him, far enough behind that he felt he was doing it himself, close enough that I could help if he needed it. Not close enough, however, to intercede in his cat-like stealth to dump this vast amount of very chunky vomitus into the SINK instead of the TOILET.


That’s what I thought. What I said was, “Thanks, Andy. Hey, next time, dump that in the toilet, OK?”

“Oh. OK. Sorry.” He apologized and then I felt awful for even saying anything. We rinsed and dried the bowl and I sent him back to the couch.

But then I turned back and stared at the sink and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hand as I thought about how the hell I was going to clean that up. I certainly didn’t want to touch it. In the end, rinsing as much as I could down the drain and then getting whatever was left with paper towels was my chosen strategy. It worked OK, but I swore up and down at Andy and his parents the whole time.

This was the pre-cell phone era, and the parents were out running errands so they didn’t leave a number where they could be reached. So, I called my mom. “THEY LEFT YOU WITH A SICK KID?!?” my mom asked, rhetorically and disgustedly. “They better pay you double!!” She offered to come over and help me but I declined. This was my gig, after all. I didn’t need my mommy to bail me out. But it was nice to vent to her a little and hear that she had my back.

Andy threw up once more, and *I* took the bowl that time.

When the parents returned, they did apologize but they didn’t pay me double. But they did make me appreciate my mom just a little more.